Yet another inkling of the internecine war in “Generation Next” of the BJP has come, with the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, brusquely turning away Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi from campaigning in Bihar, with the categorical assertion that “his magic need not work everywhere.”
As it is, with Modi’s anti-minority image rendering him persona non grata in several States, Sushma’s matter-of-fact remark reveals that the leadership of the BJP for (and post) the 2014 elections is far from being sealed, signed and delivered in Modi’s favour, despite the growth and development mantra he keeps chanting.
At another level, the ambitious Sushma has struck a telling blow by raising Modi’s “acceptance” problem outside “Vibrant Gujarat”, which was evident in the 2009 general elections. Of the 300-plus rallies Modi addressed in the 2009 election campaign, BJP won 37 seats (against 75 for the Congress from Rahul Gandhi‘s 102 meetings).
For a party which has near-zero presence in 143 Lok Sabha seats, and whose seatshare and voteshare have been going downhill since 1999, Modi’s image is the elephant in the room. And the new infighting reveals that not everybody within his own party is enamoured of Modi , nor willing to accept his “leadership” without a fight.
At the same time, Sushma Swaraj’s appeal is not to be sniffed at. One of the few women of stature in the BJP, Swaraj came to faraway Karnataka to take on Sonia Gandhi, speaks English with reasonable fluency unlike Modi, has never been afraid to face interviewers, unlike Modi, and has cultivated her own resources, vide the Reddy brothers.
Question: Is Sushma Swaraj right in asserting that Narendra Modi’s “magic” need not work everywhere? Or has Modi overcome his past to emerge as a leader of national importance? Has Sushma revealed her cards too soon? Or are the battlelines drawn in the BJP for another leadership squabble? And between Sushma and Modi, who is likely to be the bigger vote-getter in the long run?